I wanted to share with you a few thoughts about last week’s congressional baseball shooting in Virginia. Since I first learned of the shooting, my thoughts and prayers have been with House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, his family and all those affected by this tragedy. I’m also grateful for the brave Capitol Police whose prompt action saved untold lives and for the first responders who arrived at the scene. They are true heroes.
Violence has no place in our political system and, as Americans, we must unite in condemning it.
This should be a time of reflection for all of us. This is the moment for all of us — Democrats, Republicans, independents and the media — to come together and unite. To check our rhetoric. To calm, not inflame.
The political environment in 2017 is toxic. It is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. It’s gotten progressively worse since I was first elected to Congress in 2010, but what I have seen in the past few months, with the change of administrations, is unprecedented. It’s time for all of us to take stock of the political tone in our country — how and why it’s gotten this bad – and how each of us can improve it.
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As a congressman, I see a big part of my job as calming the political waters, not inflaming them. When President Obama was in office and I was holding town halls, I would get a lot of hostile questions about President Obama. I would always remind my friends that it was OK to disagree with the president, but we should be respectful in the way we talk about him.
When people demanded Obama’s impeachment, I would respectfully disagree and remind them that we can’t impeach someone just because we don’t like him or disagree with him or because he said something that was untruthful. I would always argue that the best way to defeat Barack Obama was at the ballot box, not through impeachment proceedings.
The media need to take stock too. We are engulfed in a media culture of “report, then verify,” driven by “gotcha” moments to fuel “viral” videos. In too many parts of America — and especially in our nation’s capital — we are seeing people who, for lack of a better term, are losing their minds in hating people who disagree with them politically. And all too often, the media is fanning the flames.
I am stunned that the New York Times is sponsoring a play in which President Trump is assassinated. I was shocked and disgusted by the Kathy Griffin pictures, and just yesterday, I was alarmed when Johnny Depp somehow thought it was OK to declare that maybe it was time for an actor assassinate a U.S. president again.
It’s OK to disagree about politics. But disagreement shouldn’t equal hate. As an adult, I often disagreed politically with my mother. She was a Kennedy Democrat and I am a Reagan Republican. But I loved her, and she loved me. I respected her views, and she respected mine. We, as Americans, can respect each other even when we disagree. And even when we disagree, we can work together to achieve common goals to improve our country.
Let’s start believing the best in each other, instead of the worst. Let’s not assume that people on the other side of us politically are evil. Let’s believe that their intentions are noble even when their policies are wrong. Let’s do our part to make our politics and our country a better place, a more hopeful place, and a place where all of us can feel respected and valued.
1st District Rep. Raul Labrador wrote this letter to constituents June 23.